Just to say that it’s still out there, for sale, and getting the odd review like this:
Ben Jeapes gave Our Child of Two Worlds five stars
Carries on the story of Cory the alien from the first book, OUR CHILD OF THE STARS, with barely a falter in momentum. All the things that made the first book so charming and so strong are there: the golden age science fictional setting, updated with present sensibilities; the compassion and decency of the main characters; and above all, the intrusion of reality into the best-laid plans, making this feel like a story that is firmly set in the real world. Soon after the events of the first book, a new normality has just about asserted itself, people are getting used to it … And then the rug is pulled right from under their feet. There is no guaranteed ending, and whether the actual ending we do get can be called happy is a matter of perspective. I cannot recommend this or its predecessor highly enough.
Doug Johnstone’s The Shape Between Us has an alien land in Scotland, adding to the large number of alien landings whose story is shaped by where they land, and who finds them.
ET lands in Modesto California, since it is a story about Spielberg’s childhood. Superman in Smallville, Kansas, for his Jewish creators wanted him to be an immigrant but raised by an all American family.
I have often mused on how Pilot, Cory’s mother, might have landed somewhere else, and the infinite stories that flowed from that. To write is to choose.
Contains mild spoilers for Our Child of The Stars and Our Child of Two Worlds – spelling out some things not spelled out before.
Cory’s mother, the Pilot, flies Forager Ship Four towards a lush world of green and blue and white. A world of war, a world of summer and winter. Her son Little Blue Frog is unconscious, and her best friend and her child are already dead. Her body is wracked with pain, she cannot shake off the pain from the wounds of so many deaths. She knows she is alone dying.
Behind her, the huge colony ship tries a desperate move. It launches one of its engines into the swarm of alien machines and detonates it…
A swarm of murderous alien machines heads for Earth, dragging a meteor as a shield. What havoc it could wreak… Can she, dare she, destroy them as they fall?
This is a primitive planet, gripped by the psychosis that violence is an appropriate response to feeling beings. She may need to hide. Where on that world does she land…?
In the beginning, was a small New England town. The characters were American, except for the small purple boy with a heart of gold and a dreadful secret. His adoptive mother named him Cory. The characters and the setting existed before there was thought of anything as fancy as a book or two. I had a short story that obeyed Aristotle’s unities – a few characters, and the whole action in one place and on one day.
What if Pilot, dying, bereaved, not wholly rational, had landed somewhere else?
Fellow writers challenged me why I did not move the setting – set it in the country I knew from experience, perhaps the Meteor striking somewhere in Somerset with an improbable name like Abbot’s Balcony or Fester St James, with the Ship down in the Bristol Channel. A story set in the UK in 1969, where the times were a changing too. I was a little younger than Cory is, not remembering the Moon Landings but I did remember Apollo 13.
How different the flavour of the book would have been! Maybe I should have written a book of optimism and starry-eyed hope about Britain…
In part I set it in Amber Grove, New York, because that was as exotic as I felt up to – and because the characters came as liberal North-Eastern Americans and weren’t up for changing.
Where does Cory land and who finds him first?
Infinite books spread out. In many, Pilot’s gamble fails and Cory dies. Where there is no medical attention, his death is all but certain. In many, the authorities learn of the boy, and in every one of those he becomes a plaything of the powerful. How many governments would rush to tell the world and how many to keep him a secret? How many keep him tucked away as Molly feared, like a lab rat? How many see him first as a person?
Perhaps some of these stories are not too dreadful for him. Maybe even in an unkind world and for cynical reasons, those around him are still kind. If the President’s scientific advisor Dr Pfeiffer gets hold of him… he’s an ambitious and conceited Cold-Warrior but a kind and almost indulgent father. Many options will be nightmares for Cory and for me thinking of them.
Of course, Cory is not human. He has ways to flee captivity, before his powers are known. Afterwards I see little chance.
Look at an equal area map of the world. Look how much is Russia, China and their satellites. Look how much of it is Africa. Imagine Cory on the Serengeti, laughing at elephants, or staring at the blazing stars in longing… not knowing which star is home.
Imagine Cory’s first Earth winter – sledding in Alberta with other children, or skating a frozen pond in some Communist dacha… He does not like the stern men who come, but the Grandmothers are kind.
He might have learned Danish or Igbo or Minnan or one of the countless tongues of Papua New Guinea.
He could have fallen into a hot war… into ignorant or criminal hands…
Cory is a child who has known nothing but love. He will be a challenge to all of us, our systems and our hypocrisies, wherever he lands. What would Harold Wilson have done, or Pierre Trudeau? Indira Gandhi or Seretse Khama? How quickly the great powers would move on a lesser power – with threats and bribes.
Cory in Japan, Cory among the Amish, Cory bought and sold…
Alien ships tend to deposit their precious cargo in rural places – not just because there is more rural to land in, but for plot convenience. Imagine the Ship being seen over a city. Imagine trying to hide him in a Brazilian favela, or Manhattan. But even cities have possibilities.
There are some stories it is perhaps not mine to tell. I have a secret wish, where a kind and strong-minded widow with children of her own takes him in. She has a small circle who know their place, how people like them exist under a ration of tolerance, who know how to keep their mouths shut. Her son is a hothead, a loudmouth who renounced the name she gave him for an African name, but he is smart and he knows people on both sides of the law. Her older daughter is sleeping with a white slacker, connected to the seedier bits of youth culture. She would use those connections, and her church. The youngest daughter would love Cory in this story as much as she does in mine.
Somehow the wheel turns, and Cory is taken in by Diane Alexander… a teacher, a Black woman, a widow, head of one of the few Black families in Amber Grove. Molly, her crazy friend and neighbour would soon find out, and help with this bewitching child, but Diane would be Earth Mom.
Maybe when the big money comes calling, the film will follow that story instead.
SciFiEtc Weekend SFW XIV was well organised, friendly and entertaining – and a bit bonkers. It describes itself as a SFFH weekend or a Geek Camp or a party. They were kind enough to invite me and Sarah and we had a great time. And I got to play Just A Minute with Nina Wadia.
I am struck by the difficulty of describing SFW both to people who go to other SFFH ‘conventions’ and those who lump them all together.
What they have in common is assembling people who are enthusiasts for the fantastic – people who have different tastes in books, shows, films, T-shirts, and art can still recognise a common ‘geekium’.
There are common elements
-lots of people cosplaying – wearing elaborate costumes. This makes me feel ‘I am with my people’ even if I don’t do it myself.
-talks, interviews, panel discussions, Q+As.
-different interests reflected particularly in the bigger events– film, TV, books, comics, games.
-entertainment of various forms – from folk music to rap, from standup to puppet theatre – all with some SFFH references
-guests who are working in the field, or who stay involved despite their professional life having moved on. So sometimes actors from series in the 70s 80s and 90s.
These events can be overwhelming or small and focused, they can be commercial and hardnosed, or run so much for the fans that they put off commercial and professional attendees.
SFW had the wonderful thing common to many enthusiasms that ‘everyone here treats this incredibly seriously’ but also with a firm core of ‘of course we don’t take ourselves too seriously’. In fact, never trust any group of people who aren’t happy to laugh at themselves.
It put a lot of emphasis on the entertainment – we were in a holiday camp. Guests like me in the Writer strand were treated as important but also expected to be accessible to the other attendees. For example, I was delighted to be given an hour where I went round six tables of 6-8 people and talked with them for ten minutes each.
I had an intelligent interview with Bryony Pearce (author in several genres) and Q+A – a panel discussion on fandom such as how far do fans own a topic and is that always good – numerous slots selling my books and talking about what was on people’s minds and…
And I got to Play Just A Minute with Nina Wadia. It was a riot.
So Nina Wadia was there because she was in the Sandman TV series, which is very big, and was a first timer at any SFFH event. She was lovely and hilarious – and I’m not sure she was expecting the friendly warmth and enthusiasm and minor insanity she got.
Just a Minute was played as a full contact sport – like all these things you are singing for your supper and so we tried to give the audience entertainment. Nina, briefed on the rules only as we entered the stage but well able to stage a tantrum where required, me – listened to the game as a child – and author Bryony Pearce and actor Chase Masterton who are convention regulars and utterly ruthless players but charming and delightful with it! I got plenty of laughs, which was a relief – sometimes my being funny mode doesn’t switch on. The result depended more on whose buzzer was working than anything else.
It was all great and people seemed interested. I don’t think I got snappy, although I did have to disagree with the person who thought it was ‘a shame’ no one read Asimov any more.
All the artists had the option to meet up for dinner which meant we got to know each other better.. Extrovert mode takes it out of me and a quiet night was appreciated. Shout out in particular to Anna Stephens (prolific author and fanfic advocate), and Simon Kurt Unsworth (horror writer and calm voice of reason on panels) and Benjamin his son and also a horror writer/collaborator. And Sam and David and Matt from Area 51 and everyone else who worked on making it happen.
My two novels are suitable for strong readers aged 12+.
I don’t consider them to be Young Adult Novels.
I don’t have a problem with Young Adult Novels – I have read a good number which are as good as anything not labelled YA and indeed, address issues which are not often enough addressed in mainstream work. Famously the Hunger Games attacked class, poverty, and state inspired violence glorified on TV at a time when many adult novels were on much less political themes. I might write a YA novel.
The wikipedia entry for YA genre is good but to my mind does not go far enough.
“Young adult fiction (YA) is a category of fiction written for readers from 12 to 18 years of age. While the genre is primarily targeted at adolescents, approximately half of YA readers are adults.
The subject matter and genres of YA correlate with the age and experience of the protagonist. The genres available in YA are expansive and include most of those found in adult fiction. Common themes related to YA include friendship, first love, relationships, and identity. Stories that focus on the specific challenges of youth are sometimes referred to as problem novels or coming-of-age novels.
Young adult fiction was developed to soften the transition between children’s novels and adult literature.” (In fact, ‘juvenile novels’ were a thing long before the YA term existed..)
For me, A YA novel usually has one or more teenagers as the **main** protagonist, and contains in some measure that teenager working out themselves and their relationships with world. My work covers the following main characters
Gene and Molly start the book in their twenties
Cory an alien is a child in the first book and early adolescent towards the end of the second book – although exact matching with his species is difficult.
Dr Pfeiffer, an adult well into his professional career, at least his late forties.
An alien adult.
So I don’t mind Young Adults reading my books, I hope they do. But I don’t see it is a specific YA book written at least half for that audience. Hope that makes sense.
Palmers Green Author Stephen Cox has his second book out in paperback on 13 October. It’s also the tenth anniversary of committing to being a writer.
Our Child of the Stars and now Our Child of Two Worlds combine family drama in 1960s USA with new takes on a few classic SF ideas. A childless couple adopt an orphaned alien and try to keep him safe – against peril on Earth and in space.
Saturday 15 October, 7pm All Good Bookshop. 35 Turnpike Lane, Wood Green, London, N8 0EP. There’s some wine and snacks but do BYOB. Stephen will reading, doing Q+A and talking on Tigger or Eeyore? – ten years getting publishing. RSVP appreciated. BTW you can order from the bookshop and Stephen will sign and dedicate where asked
There is an online launch Monday 17th Oct at 7pm on Zoom – similar to above. All welcome but email email@example.com for Zoom link. Stephen does talks to groups.
ENFIELD TOWN SIGNING
If you just want to grab Stephen to sign a copy, Enfield Waterstones Church Street are planning a just-turn-up signing 12-2pm Sat 15th.
Our Child of the Stars was praised by the Guardian, Grazia, FT, the Mail and LA Times. (“…a wonderfully emotional, heart-warming journey of what it really means to be a parent” – LA Times).
The sequel, Our Child of Two Worlds has won similar praise. “Riveting, compelling, and emotionally charged: a page turner I loved” “watch and be dazzled”
“A compelling story of love, family, and hope, Stephen Cox skilfully continues the story of Cory, the alien child who became the beloved son of Molly and Gene in Our Child of the Stars. Cory is torn between where he came from and his life on Earth. Heart-warmingly beautiful, Our Child of Two Worlds is not to be missed.”
Barbara Conrey, USA Today Bestselling author of Nowhere Near Goodbye
“Like the best SF, Our Child of Two Worlds is about us, at our best and worst, and how we respond to the best and the worst in others. Cory’s people are from a very different, almost Utopian seeming culture and – as in one of Swift’s novels – we’re judged by that comparison, Cory himself noting it even as his love for his adopted parents and his friends burns bright. Are we worth saving, if we seem willing to destroy ourselves anyway?
“Once again, Stephen Cox has created a novel that strikes at the heart of family. The novel, I think, can be seen as an examination of how complicated family interactions can be. How infuriating blood relatives are. How difficult marriage can be even when both people are on the same page, wanting the same things. How hard it is when what is best for your child most definitely isn’t best for you. Throw in some aliens and the threat of the extinction of the Earth and those themes are stretched to their limits.”
“Stephen Cox writes beautifully and fills his characters with warmth and self-questioning. I love the incidental characters who debate whether Cory is a hoax. There’s the drama surrounding Molly’s family. There are tensions that play out on an intimate scale against the massive context of aliens, space travel, the potential end of the world. It works brilliantly.”
I have a section on the cool new book website http://www.shepherd.com. It allows authors to share their books and promote them with five books by other people on a relevant theme. There are various other developing features – check it out. I feature Our Child of the Stars because if you like the first, you will buy the second, right?
Writers must be careful handing out great power, as it can wreck the sense of peril. In Our Child of the Stars, Cory is innocent, enormously kind, engaging, and lovable. He brings his new family into many dangers. One power is first used to save his parents, not understanding the terrible harm it will do. His empathy makes it horrific to use and he is frightened of it. It becomes an absolute last resort.
The list has five strong candidates, and one at least was a direct inspiration for my books. I think there are several newer books from more diverse backgrounds, and I am building a broader list. TV and film have some classics – Eleven in Stranger Things for example. I welcome examples that are
(ii) CHILDREN or naïve childlike teens
I have had so many suggestions where (i) BAD (ii) TEENAGERS with (iii) WELL KNOWN AND WIDELY AVAILABLE powers are suggested.
A case for hope without being soppy. I invent the term gloomerati for those who claim all good literature must be hopeless. I hope it is clear I have no quarrel with writers whose books are deeply gloomy or the readers who enjoy them.
New England and New York – how I wrote an America of the mind and how much I leaned on actual experiences
A Letter to Past Me-Scifi bulletin
I write to 2018 Me about the tricky issue of sequels – particularly close sequels which is asking “what happened bext”
Five American Works that influenced the two books – SCiFiNow
Cox has a wonderful way of painting a complex family that feels genuine… This is a a book about hope, a hope that things can get better, that we can work it out, but to get to that point Cox puts the reader through a lot of anguish.
Like the best SF, Our Child of Two Worlds is about us, at our best and worst, and how we respond to the best and the worst in others. Cory’s people are from a very different, almost Utopian seeming culture and – as in one of Swift’s novels – we’re judged by that comparison, Cory himself noting it even as his love for his adopted parents and his friends burns bright. Are we worth saving, if we seem willing to destroy ourselves anyway?
A fiercely intelligent, engaged and often angry novel, Our Child of Two Worlds is moving, exciting and deeply readable.
Stephen Cox writes beautifully and fills his characters with warmth and self-questioning. I love the incidental characters who debate whether Cory is a hoax. There’s the drama surrounding Molly’s family. There are tensions that play out on an intimate scale against the massive context of aliens, space travel, the potential end of the world. It works brilliantly.
… considerable excitement and tension as the realisation grows that the world truly is in danger. It’s a fantastic story, told so well. Do read Our Child of the Stars first. You need to do that and then Our Child of Two Worlds will be irresistible reading. How I adore Cory, the boy who loved by two worlds!